Monday, October 24, 2016

Ranking the 20 Best Picture Winner's that I Have Seen

20.) Crash (2005)

Let's just move on. Crash has been so derided that at this point it probably is underrated. It's not a totally horrible movie, but it is definitely in the Bottom-10 or so of Best Picture winners from every list or ranking that I've seen. The movie itself is way too simple and obvious, just pulling racial strings with no real emotional weight. As I said, let's just move on.

19.) Forrest Gump (1994)

Here's a movie that got a lot less critically popular over time. I don't know if it was viewed as a worthy winner at the time, but the fact that it topped some truly great movies that were nominated makes it seem so much worse. It beat out Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption, and while I have my quibbles with that second movie, it was definitely better than Forrest Gump. Another overly simplistic, obvious story that somewhat worked because of Hanks' performance.

18.) American Beauty (1999)

My own opinion of American Beauty has really dropped over time. Spacey is fine, but while we've seen small movies before compete seriously for Best Picture nods, this wouldn't shouldn't have really done so. The movie is fine, but boring. The storyline itself was a bit creepy and seemed to never own up to that fact. I liked the movie on first watching, but when you see what real good film can do you get a better understanding of simply good movies.

17) Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Honestly, from this point on forward I would heavily recommend any of these movies. As an Indian myself, the story did touch a few personal strings, and while on the whole I was fine with their depiction of Indian poverty, it was a bit much at times. That said, the quasi-Bollywood aura of the film made a too-good-to-be-true story work. I'm surprised quasi-Bollywood movies haven't done more since, but for a year it worked as a nice entry point to the world's most expansive cinema.

16.) Annie Hall (1977)

I honestly have not seen many Woody Allen films - I mostly don't get his quixotic, off-beat style. I understand his legacy as a comedic genius, and that is probably why I don't see Annie Hall as some groundbreaking movie among the best ever to win the Best Picture award. I find it a perfectly acceptable really good movie. It is one of the better small movies I've seen - especially out of the group that have gained Oscar Love, but I don't think I would rewatch it as the laughs aren't the type that would go over as well a second time.

15.) Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

This was not a great movie, it is not one I would rewatch many times. That all said, the movie itself was brilliant in its construction. Taking on a very taboo subject back in the late-70's, showing a marriage splitting up not because of infidelity, or abuse, but just loneliness and sadness. Both Hoffman and Streep were brilliant and they needed to be. If they had lesser talents in those roles the movie would have been too depressive to enjoy. With them at the helm, it made it bearable, thought-provoking.

14.) West Side Story (1961)

Musicals dominated the Best Picture category in the 60's (and there are four of them in total on my list), and they were all really good. To be honest, with Musicals (except for the one I have ranked highest), I care mostly about the musical pieces. I only kind of care about the plot. That was the real failing of Les Miserables, which is a great story with great music, but the movie focused way too much on the story part. I think West Side Story did a little of this as well. The music is good, but wasn't present enough in the movie.

13.) Chicago (2002)

Hey, another musical! Chicago may have had the best staging of any of the musicals to win Best Picture - at least of the one's that I have seen. I really liked the idea to make it almost two separate movies, with an, admittedly weak, story happening in real time, and the songs happening on a stage in an alternate reality. The staging and the music was great. If only they had a more compelling singer as leading man other than Richard Gere it may have been ever higher up in my list.

12.) Titanic (1997)

It's become too easy to criticize James Cameron's movie of largesse, but let's just remember it is still a really good movie. Yes,it is probably too long. Yes, it was trying too hard to be a spectacle, but spectacle is what James Cameron is good at. The FX and staging was unlike anything we have seen. The fact they were able to build in a somewhat compelling relationship storyline is actually pretty impressive. If only James Cameron had a better internal editor and cut 30% of that movie out, it would have been close to perfect.

11.) Argo (2012)

At the time, I was somewhat surprised that Argo won Best Picture. It was a year in which I saw a majority of the other nominees, including Silver Linings Playbook, Lincoln, Django Unchained, Les Mis and Zero Dark Thirty. Looking back, though, Argo probably was the best of these. For what is a movie detailing a real event, it was incredibly suspenseful. Ben Affleck the director is immensely talented, and he was smart enough to let the story and the other characters take over from himself as an actor in this movie. Argo really hit every mark of a fun, suspenseful, historical piece of art.

10.) Gone With the Wind (1939)

I have seen startilingly few of the really old winners, and while there a lot of them on my list (and I plan to do this again when I have seen more of hte old classics), Gone With the Wind is the only one I have, and probably the earliest one I ever will. The movie itself is great. The story is simple, but most movie plots were back in teh day. The movie is way too long, but again that was pretty common back in the day. The performances were great. The story was great. It mixed in slavery and race relations with surprisngly delicate ease for a movei back in the pre-Civil Rights days. I'm excited to watch more old classics, but for now Gone With the Wind set the bar pretty high.

9.) The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Honestly, I feel like I have to defend why it is so low on my list rather than why the movie is still great. Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster were both great in their roles, and the plot itself was captivating, but I just don't get why this is seen as such a groundbreaking or memorable film. It is good, it is a joy to watch, but I wouldn't necessarily rewatch it. It was great to get what is conventionally a thriller film to win Best Picture, and it was deserving, but it really won in a weak year.

8.) Spotlight (2015)

It's hard to judge the most recent winner. I may look back five years or ten years from now and think very differently of Spotlight, but I really thought it was absolutely fantastic. For what I would consider a small movie, the plot was still quite complicated, with a lot of moving pieces in terms of the various writers and lawyers and sources and priests, but it never held anyone's hand. It demanded you pay attention, and it rewarded you for that patience with some amazing performances. Every actor in what was a star studded cast was playing the hell out of not always complex material. Finally, it really deftly handled the subject matter without really killing the idea of religion, which I appreciated.

7.) My Fair Lady (1964)

Take a small conventional story about a cockney girl trying to be made into a high-society starlet being taught by a arrogant, high-society man who ends up getting taught valuable lessons himself, combine it with two great actors with great performances, and a great song-list and you get a truly great movie. Many obnoxious people will prefer the stage version that stared Julie Andrews, but what really made the movie great was the set design. They painted a vibrant canvas of high-society London that made the movie come to life in a way that only great film can do.

6.) The Departed (2006)

Let's accept two statements. This is not Martin Scorsese's best movie. Yet it was also a brilliant movie very worth of this award. Having thrice lost the award with a nominated film (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas), this was seen as something of a Lifetime Achievement Award, but The Departed, to me, is still a great movie. The competing double-crosser plot played out brilliantly by Leo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, was spell-binding. Add in great direction and more great performances than I can name, and you get a modern classic. Yes, Goodfellas was better (and was robbed), but let's not let that short-change what a great film The Departed was itself.

5.) No Country for Old Men (2007)

Much like with The Departed, the Coen Brothers finally have a best-picture win to me is something of a Lifetime Achievement Award. I have never seen The English Patient, but the fact that Fargo, to me still the best movie the Coen's have made, did not win will always be a shame. That all said, No Country was fantastic, in many ways a traditional movie with dabs of Coen brilliance rather than their normal skewed approach. The Coen touches were brilliant, but so was all the traditional elements. The suspense, the directing, the simplistic less-is-more performances from Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones. Everything was great in what is also a surprisngly rewatchable performance.

4.) Amadeus (1984)

Arguably the best Biopic to ever win The Best Picture, Amadeus remains a stunning movie, in both its brilliant depiction of Vienna at the turn of the 19th Century, it's musical performances of opera and symphony, and of course the plot played so effortlessly by F. Murray Abraham as Salieri, and Tom Hucle as the snivelling, bellowing Mozart. Sure, people will long quibble about its inaccuracies, but the plot itself was one of the best, most honest portrayals of jealousy. Watching Salieri struggle knowing his talents will never match up to someone to whom it comes so effortlessly is just amazing. It really ends up being a quick three hours through Vienna, with almost no wasted moments ending in a climax where Salieri gets to see Mozart's brilliance in action, finally co-create and understand him just as Mozart himself is dying leaving his lasting legacy. Just brilliant.

3.) The Sound of Music (1965)

There may be no better musical movie than than The Sound of Music. It deftly told a story about love in the time of World War II without navigating too far or too far away from the War. The music itself was great. The main characters of Maria and Captain von Trapp were so well developed and played by Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. I said earlier that with musicals the story is secondary, and while I think that is largely true, The Sound of Music works even if you fast forward past all the songs. The setting also was great, replicating the Austrian Hills with vivid detail for a movie in the 60's. Just a great movie. This ranking may drop if I start watching more of the old classics, but for a movie made 50 years ago, it holds up surprisingly well.

2.) The Godfather Part 2

Let's move past the obvious, my #1 is the first Godfather film. Quick summary of why I prefer the first: I found old Vito a more engaging character than Michael. I liked the relative closeness of the first film, and felt Part 2 had a few too many locations. And personally I always like the original more. Anyway, none of that really matters. The Godfather Part 2 is still one of the best movies I have ever seen. Al Pacino's performance was incredible. Roberto De Niro was perfect as young Vito, so easily encapsulating everything that made Marlon Brando's performance great. Today, people may mock a movie for using such an obvious conciet of parallel timelines, but The Godfather Part 2 perfected it. As I already mentioned, I wasn't a fan of every location, but adding the scenes in Cuba were great. In the end, I just found the first movie 2% better.

1.) The Godfather

In terms of my movie watching career, my life changed the first time I saw The Godfather. It wasn't that long ago (probably 6-7 years), and obviously the movie had been mythologized so much prior to that first viewing. Still, it blew my mind. The performances were so great. The characters, even beyond just the family, were so well rounded. I have never seen a movie without a throwaway scene or line or sentence. Just a perfect film. Despite not even being around for half the movie, if not more, Marlon Brando commanded every scene. Al Pacino was a revelation. Diane Keaton was amazing, as were James Caan and Rovert Duvall. There is no flaw with this movie. Maybe if I was a film student or cinema connoisseur, I would be able to find something. I'm not. It's a brilliant film. 

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.